(mostly) daily photoblog

Archive for August, 2010

My summer is ending.

I have to go to work tomorrow.  I’m not sure I’m excited about this.  In fact, I’m even a little bit miffed.  I don’t know where the last eight weeks have gone.  A major perk in teaching is the summer holidays.  I’m happy that I spent so much time with my wife and children.  I’m a bit off-put by the lack of work I did this summer and I feel less than fully organized.  I’ve two days of training student leaders and then a ninth grade orientation on Wednesday.  I’m hoping that by then I’ll feel like everything’s back to normal, but I’ve got a bad case of doubt right now.

I guess I’ll just have to live on the memories of the Oregon coast.

A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.

Trust the Greeks (ancient ones, that is) to come up with brilliant and beautiful metaphors.  As I think about going back to school in a week and a half, I am reminding myself that I am “planting trees” through my students.  That I will not sit in the “shade” of those trees has never bothered me.  When I started teaching I was told by many older, more experienced teachers that teaching was rewarding, but that information was always offered with a sort of wry look and a verbal irony that belied the cynicism that takes many teachers who’ve lost their passion.

Along the way I’ve met a great number of other teachers, not all of them teaching in a school, who’ve reminded me why I went into teaching in the first place.  I teach because I love teaching, but more than that, I enjoy watching other people learn.  I like that moment when I can practically see the neurons firing, the synapses connecting for that brief second when learning happens.  The “ah-ha!” moment.

I teach students, not a subject.  And I’ve got a job to do.

Wishing for warmth on a rainy Friday.

It’s raining outside my window and even though the meteorologists are telling me on two separate morning shows that later this afternoon things are going to clear up, I’m left wishing for a nice warm feeling.  To that end, I’m posting a photo of Cannon Beach from our family trip to Oregon.  Now, if I just stare at all the people on the beach and the warm Oregon Coast sand, maybe I’ll warm up.

If a rolling stone gathers no moss, what does a rock do that is buried in sand?

While I visited Garry Point Park, in Steveston, BC, I spent a large portion of the day on the beach.  I was quite fascinated by the small rivulets, or their trails, that ran away from this rock.

I was also happy with the bokeh of the lens I just bought.  It’s a 70-210mm Tokina, with the largest aperture of f3.5.  So far I’m just playing with it, but it seems pretty good.  What do you think?

“As pretty as an airport…”

Douglas Adams, in The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, wrote, “It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression “As pretty as an airport.” Airports are ugly. Some are very ugly. Some attain a degree of ugliness that can only be the result of a special effort. This ugliness arises because airports are full of people who are tired, cross, and have just discovered that their luggage has landed in Murmansk (Murmansk airport is the only exception of this otherwise infallible rule), and architects have on the whole tried to reflect this in their designs.”

I think I’ll leave it at that.

Is this the way Romans thought about what was being built around them?

I have visited Rome and Florence and Pisa and Siena.  The architecture and art and culture was amazing.  I reveled in the history of the places I visited.  These were the places where history was made.  I was touching and seeing things that someone two thousand years ago also saw and touched.

And then I visited Las Vegas.  It got me wondering, as I looked to the ceiling in the Venetian Hotel and Casino, what the Romans or Florentines thought of the art and architecture that was sprouting around them.  Did they, the average Roman or Florentine, think that it was beautiful?  Did they think it was a fad and would disappear within decades?  Did they, as I did in Vegas, think that it was less a true expression of the human soul than an over-the-top exhibition of what could be done, not what was needed?

Believe me, I’m not equating Rome or Florence with Vegas, or vice versa.  Vegas, despite its billions of dollars spent creating (or re-creating) works of art, feels artificial and a lot like the work of minds with less the ability to create than the ability to copy.  I felt like I was witnessing, 500 to 2000 years later, the works of geniuses; whereas in Vegas I felt…empty.

I want to be a part of it, New York, New York.

105 degrees in the shade and I’m standing in the sun framing a photo of the (fake) Statue of Liberty at the forefront of the (fake) New York City skyline.  The only thing real is this photograph and the heat.  Everything else just thinks it is what it is.

Sorry, I’m watching the first episode of the third season of Lost and I’m feeling very metathink right now.  Jack and Sawyer and Kate are just coming to grips with the fact that they know nothing about the island on which they’re stuck.  What if the island is really where we live and we’re just Jack or Kate or Sawyer and we really don’t know anything and…I think a good sleep would help right now.

Is that a polar bear?  Eep!

Bellagio show is amazing; in other news, I am amazed by water, lights and music.

This was a definite highlight of my Vegas trip.  Outside the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, from 8:00 until midnight, is a musical fountain and draws hundreds of people to the shore of the lake every fifteen minutes.  I don’t know why it is that I can be so mesmerized by lights and water set to the tune of Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, almost emotional even.  Perhaps it was the fact that I was extremely tired after a long day of flying and then wandering Las Vegas all day.  Perhaps I am just amazed by simple things.  I know, the kind of computer programming  that must be required to pull this off, the ridiculous time and money that must have gone into constructing this, but the result is something simple – lights and water and music.  And I stand amazed.

Whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you may be, when you think of refreshment, think of ice cold Coca-Cola.

I am, unabashedly, a Coke addict.  When I saw this giant, flashing Coke sign in Vegas I had to photograph it.  I know that Coke is bad for me and my teeth and my gut, but I love it.  I love the artificial color and flavor.  I love the more-sugar-than-anyone-needs-in-one-sitting dosage.  I love the caffeine.  I love that it’s bad for me.  I love that everyone has stories about it being used as drain cleaner, that it has cocaine in it, that if you turn it sideways and view the Coca-Cola logo it looks like someone snorting cocaine, that you could use it to poison gophers – no kidding, I grew up on the prairies where prairie dogs run rampant and leave holes in yards and when I was a kid someone told me that his dad had put coca-cola in a pie pan that had lead in it and the Coke had eaten the lead out of the pan and the gophers had indulged and then died of lead poisoning.  Crazy.

This stuff has been around since 1886.  It is what you order whether the restaurant serves Pepsi or RC or Jolt – you ask for Coke.  It has weathered every health food trend.  It is internationally recognized.  And on a hot day after mowing the lawn or golfing eighteen holes, all I want is a cold Coca-Cola.  Always Coca-Cola.

p.s.  The slogan in the title comes from a 1939 ad campaign that Coca-Cola ran.

When good Americans die, they go to Paris.

I can only assume that when Oscar Wilde said “good Americans” go to Paris when they die, he didn’t ever envision Paris as part of Las Vegas.  Having spent a few days in Vegas this week I can safely say that I encountered a lot more French people in Vegas than I did almost any other nationality.  Now, being a Canadian myself, I think some of them were from Quebec, but I heard more French in Vegas than I did in Monaco last spring.  Vegas may be the most international American city.

Maybe when good French men and women die, they go to Paris, Las Vegas.

Where has all the glamour gone?

My wife and I went to Las Vegas on Sunday – a little getaway for three nights before the summer’s over.  We flew on Allegiant out of Bellingham, WA.  The great thing about flying out of a tiny regional airport is that you get to walk on the tarmac to get on the plane.  I’ve done this a couple of times, flying out of Grande Prairie, Alberta and Fort St. John, BC, but I’ve never had the chance to climb in the back end of a plane.

When I’ve walked down gangplanks in so many airports I’ve felt like I was getting on a bus.  There’s no glamour in it.  Walking on the tarmac reminds me of the long-gone days of the rich and fabulous jet-setting around the world.  When I get into the plane all that glamour disappears, but for that one great moment I feel like I’ve been transported back a few decades.

Messing with my photos.

Just messing with Photoshop this afternoon.  I tried this once before and ended up with demon-eyed children.  Subtlety works better, I think.

Sad cake is sad, but delicious.

I love finding unintended faces in objects.  In this case, my sister made a brilliant and delicious cherry-chip birthday cake for herself.  She, being the candy addict she is, covered it in jelly beans, fuzzy peach rings, gummy fruit slices and skittles.  When it was served I noticed that my piece was frowning.  I think this is because of two things:  one, my sister made her own birthday cake.  She can say whatever she likes about being a busy mother of two boys under four years old but I think it’s a little sad to have to make your own cake.  The second reason is that this piece of cake got one look at me and my belly and thought, “There’s no hope.  I will be eaten.  Entirely.”

Poor sad cake.  You’re so sad.

The Oregon Coast view, through driftwood.

Our campsite was within throwing distance of the ocean.  When we first arrived we set up our tent and then went for a quick walk on a less than well-walked trail that took us over a dune and when we reached the pinnacle we saw the ocean.  Less than a five minute walk from our campsite was the entire Pacific Ocean.  Driftwood was strewn around the beach, the beach that stretched for miles north and south from our campsite.  It was amazing.

The photo above was taken facing north towards Neahkahnie Mountain.

Pentax K20D; Pentax DA 18-55mm AL II; f11; ISO 100; 1/250 sec.

Small children flying through the air

Two very excellent professional photographer acquaintances of mine (Jason and Darcy at Revival Arts) are a huge photographic inspiration to me.  I am in awe of the shots they think of, let alone take.  While we were on the Oregon Coast, I thought I might try emulating some shots I’ve seen on their blog (which you should totally check out – it’s over there, on the right).

What do you think?  Did they work?

That’s Ben.  At first I was sure this was going to be a remake of White Men Can’t Jump because Ben could not get off the ground.  He managed this shot pretty well.

And this is Hannah.  I set the camera on high speed continuous shooting and managed to pull out a couple of good frames.  She was game to keep jumping, but I think that may have been because she was so psyched to be at the ocean.

Portland Tourism owes me for this one.

On the way back from the Oregon Coast, which was beautiful and cold and wet and not very sunny at all, the Family B stopped in for a couple of days in Portland.  My ulterior motive, knowing that our stay would be short and mostly centered around the kids and their interests, was to get to Powell’s Books.  Specifically the City of Books on Burnside in downtown Portland.  I love this place.  You can look up the history, because it is really interesting, but to me it’s just a gigantic bookstore.  I am a bibliophile to the point that I buy books that I don’t even read because some day I’ll want to read it and then it will already be in my bookshelf.

On the second day in Portland we took the kids to the Oregon Zoo and then the family indulged my wife and we went to see Pittock Mansion.  This house has four floors and about 4000 square feet of floor space on each floor (the perfect summer cottage – ha!).  The extravagance of the house is offset by the facts that the Pittocks, who built the house, only spent their last years in the house and Mr. Pittock spent his entire life amassing the fortune that would allow him to build such a house, only to die within four years of moving into it.  Sad story, amazing house.

Happy bookstore, sad mansion, fun family vacation.

My daughter is a gift of which I couldn’t have dreamt.

When my daughter was born I was pretty sure that I was out of my depth.  When the obstetrician said, “She’s a girl,” I thought two things:  “Yay!” and “Oh crap!”  I didn’t know anything about girls.  Sure, I had two sisters, but my job as the older brother was to make their lives miserable and scare off boys I didn’t like.  But raising a daughter?  Yeesh.

Over the past nine years I’ve had the joy and pain of raising my daughter.  I love her more than my own life and I can’t wait to watch as she grows into a woman (although I secretly hope she stops growing up and stays my little girl).  Honestly, I think I’m more terrified now than I was nine years ago when she was born.

Pentax K20D; Sigma 70-210mm; f11; ISO 100; 1/640 sec.

A little more Haystack Rock. This one with more girl power.

My daughter, above, and I have had some fun during this holiday.  She is certainly becoming a big girl and I’m a lucky dad.  I just hope that, years from now, we’re still best friends like we were this last week.

The shot above was taken at Cannon Beach, Oregon – Haystack Rock is in the background.

Pentax K20D; Pentax DA 18-55mm AL II; f11; ISO 100; 1/320 sec.

Haystack Rock; or how I started my Oregon Coast vacation

The B Family is almost done a week-long run along the Oregon Coast and I thought it would be appropriate to share a religious moment:  Haystack Rock.  See, when I grew up there were these two movies, Goonies and Kindergarten Cop, wherein Haystack Rock featured.  The image of this rock, and its accompanying “needles”, has been burned into my wife’s and my brain to the extent that we both squealed when we came off the US 101 highway and first saw Haystack Rock in the distance.

As we giggled and grinned at each other our kids looked at us, then each other, and had a good laugh at us.  When we tried to explain to them why this rock was making us silly, they stared at us with even more wonder.  They were impressed with the beach, but our strange fascination with the rock, well I don’t think they will ever get that.

Pentax K20D; Sigma 70-210mm; f11; ISO 100; 1/200 sec.

The view from the ferry

Aah…thanks Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) for the safety net that is three feet hight and totally going to keep me from falling or jumping off the back of your ferry.  I feel secure.  Really secure.

Pentax K20D; Pentax DA 18-55mm AL II; f8; ISO 100; 1/250 sec.


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